YA: Not as fuzzy as expected.
To be honest, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of YA is “Man, another person is writing YA? Yeesh.” My second thought has always been that YA is something I will never, ever write and in most cases, something I stay away from reading.
Why? Well, in following the theme of Beth Revis’ blog week here, I have to admit that part of these feelings come from some things I’ve recently discovered to be false. And I’m not just saying that because I like Beth. :)
What did I think were YA requirements? Here’s the main things:
- Main character is a kid, somewhere under the age of 18
- YA stories aren’t dark or violent
- YA writing is simplified, therefore not as interesting to read
I recently had a conversation with Beth about my manuscript, HOUND IN BLOOD AND BLACK. She asked how the editing was going. I responded, you mean the editing I should be doing instead of playing all these video games? We chatted for a bit and then Beth dropped a bomb that made my heart skip: Have you ever considered writing HOUND for a YA audience?
In my head, I said EW NO WAY. To Beth, I politely replied: Uhm…no?
After she listed some reasons why HOUND might be for right for YA – such as having zombies, something popular with all ages lately – I had to stop her. I stated, very strongly, that I felt like my writing wasn’t geared towards YA.
Of course Beth asked me why not? The only real difference between YA and adult fiction, she continued, is cutting back on world building and back story. Hmm, I thought. I did deliberately go lean on world building and history in HOUND. I wanted the story to be about my characters and not just a new spin on how the zombie apocalypse came about.
But Beth, I said – still convinced there was no way my book could be YA – my book is very violent. Lots of dark topics and things nice little kids shouldn’t be thinking about, much less reading!
That’s when Beth suggested I read THE HUNGER GAMES – a story about kids forced to fight to the death in an arena. I did, I loved it, and I read CATCHING FIRE in the same weekend. Point taken. YA certainly isn’t restricted to puppies and pancakes and a happy high school proms.
But then we found the real problem and one assumption of mine about YA that turned out to be correct. My MC is too old (age 32).
So while I still don’t feel like HOUND would fit in YA (without a major change in main character - something that would be grounds for an entire rewrite), I do see that YA isn’t exactly the animal I thought it was – at least not all of it. And while I enjoyed THE HUNGER GAMES and won’t turn my nose up at a new YA book that catches my interest just because it’s written with a younger audience in mind, I have confirmed that I’m not a YA writer, even if it's only because I don’t enjoy writing from the POV of a younger main character and, more often then not, I love me some heavy duty world building.
Regardless, it’s always nice to find great stories and writing you were missing out on, simply because of a misconception.